Nerve pain due to herniated disc: Cause and Treatment
In the pain-free human body, the skeleton is straight or in a “neutral” alignment.
In a neutral spine the backbones or vertebra stack on top of each other like building blocks.
When lined up in neutral they create an opening called the intervertebral foramen. This tunnel is a protected space and the hole is where the nerves come out from the spinal cord and innervate or “feeds” the tissues below that area. The nerves coming out of the foramen of the neck feed electrical impulses or nerve “juice” to the arms and upper body.
In the lower back, the nerves supply nerve “juice” to the lower body and legs. There is no actual “juice” but rather nerves carry electrical impulses that send signals up to the spinal cord and brain about what is happening in the body and signals also go down to the body part to tell the muscles how to work. Imagine it like a telephone line carrying signals in both directions.
If the foramen or hole is big enough to allow the nerve to function normally you will likely feel nothing out of the ordinary. However, if the hole starts to get smaller, such as the backbones twisting in opposite directions or tilting to one side more than another by the muscles pulling the bones out of place-then you will start feeling symptoms. When the alignment of the bones is abnormal because the muscles are putting too much tension in this area it can cause the intervertebral disc to leave its usual area and bulge out the back pinching the nerve. Common symptoms can be aching, numbness, tingling, or deep boring pain in the area that the nerve feeds-this is why you might feel pain in your hand or your lower leg but the cause of the pain is actually coming from the spine. Usually, the pain will worsen with sitting or bending forward.
Using an ice pack or heat pack to the area of discomfort will likely not provide any relief because this is the symptom but not the cause of the problem it would be better to treat the area where the disc is bulging or herniating and putting pressure on the nerve. Ideally, the best treatment is to restore the tunnel or foramen and give the nerve back its space.
When the muscles deep in the belly on the front of the spine and hip are in a spasm they will pull the backbones to the same side and tilt the spine. This will increase the pressure to one side of the disc and eventually the disc will start migrating or bulging toward the back and pinch the nerves. If you can unlock this muscle spasm it will restore the equal pressure throughout the disc and stop the bulging to the back. The spine will be straight and you can stop the leg or arm pain by restoring the tunnel or intervertebral foramen so the nerve can function normally and you can stop or ideally prevent any pain from coming back.